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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

‘All’s Well’ for Fun Cast at American Players Theatre

Theater Review

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Alas, poor Bertram (Matt Schwader). Sent to make his way in the court of France’s king (Jonathan Smoots) by his widowed mother, the Countess of Rossillion (Tracy Michelle Arnold), young Bertram thinks this is his way to escape the clutches of Helena (Ally Carey), a comely physician’s daughter who pines for his troth. But when clever Helena cures the king’s mysterious illness and receives, in tribute, her choice of suitors, Bertram finds himself on the firing line, figuratively and literally, as Helena strives to topple his resistance.

All’s Well That Ends Well, American Players Theatre’s second production, which opened Saturday, is Shakespeare’s Cinderella story, in which the prince is less than charming and the commoner forced through clever machinations to win his hand and, perhaps someday, his heart. (Really, honey, was he worth all the effort?)

In and among love’s labors not quite lost, Bertram goes to war, falls under the influence of aging cavalier Parolles (a hilarious Jim DeVita), crosses swords with foes, beds the wrong maiden and, undone by his own cleverness, falls neatly into Helena’s trap. Some themes, it seems, truly are eternal.

The best thing about the three-hour production is how much fun APT’s core company has with its supporting parts. Arnold and Smoots envelop their characters, as does Sarah Day, who turns a modest role into a memorable one. Scene-stealer DeVita has the most fun, chewing his way through difficult dialogue in a threadbare wig and an over-accessorized uniform.

In the end, once again, all ends well for the Spring Green troupe.

American Players Theatre’s All’s Well That Ends Well runs through Oct. 1.